CHIANG MAI, Thailand (AP) – There’s the Panda Express fast-food chain. Jing Jing, a mascot for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The forthcoming animated movie, “Kung Fu Panda.” Even a Mexican rock band named after the cuddly bear.

Not to be outdone, Thailand has come up with another, seemingly unlikely way to capitalize on this globally loved, bamboo-munching animal: panda poop.

When keepers of the country’s panda couple – Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui – got tired of disposing the 55 pounds of feces daily produced by the duo, Prasertsak Buntragulpoontawee came up with the idea of turning it all into notebooks, fans, bookmarks and key chains.

“At first the Chinese were very skeptical,” says the head of Chiang Mai Zoo’s panda unit, referring to the proprietary attitude China takes toward its iconic animal.

But the multicolored paper products have proved hot selling-items at the zoo, with the $8,200 earned to date helping balance the accounts of panda keeping.

The Thai government pays $250,000 a year to China’s Wulong Panda Research Institute to rent the pandas, who, depending on the weather, reside in either a $1 million air-conditioned cage or an extensive, fan-cooled outdoor enclosure ringed by a mini-replica of China’s Great Wall.

Panda poop paper production involves a daylong process of cleaning the feces, boiling it in a soda solution, bleaching it with chlorine and drying it under the sun. Experimentation continues on how to reduce the chemicals now used.

“We tried selling it on markets outside but so far with not so much success,” Prasertsak says. “But in the zoo, when people see real pandas and then their product, they’re excited and buy.”



HIGH SPRINGS, Fla. (AP) – Cats can be found everywhere on Steve and Pennie Lefkowitz’s property: perched on barrels, under bushes, hiding in doghouses and rubbing against the backyard fence.

The couple have turned their wooded property just off U.S. 441 into the Haven Acres Cat Sanctuary. It’s home to about 300 felines.

Pennie Lefkowitz, an animal control officer, began taking in foster cats about three years ago after she became concerned about the number of cats being euthanized in Alachua County.

“It was rather innocent to begin with,” Steve Lefkowitz told The Gainesville Sun. “We took in foster cats, and adopted some more cats. Now, we have people dropping off their unwanted cats in our driveway.”

He said while many of their cats are poor candidates for adoption because of behavior problems or health issues, other felines at the sanctuary would make great pets. The couple are trying to increase adoptions through Web sites such as petfinder.com.

County Zoning Administrator Benny Beckham said the Lefkowitzes have been cited for a code violation for having more than 150 cats in a rescue facility, but the couple are applying for a special exception.


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